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  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Indiana Tech's Miles Robinson, right, pass around the double team of Aquinas' TJ Hunter, left, and Opeyemi Sholesi during Thursday's first-round WHAC conference tournament game at Indiana Tech's Schaefer Center.

  • Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette Aquinas' Opeyemi Sholesi, left, swats the basketball away from Indiana Tech's Tanner Watkins during their game in the first round of the WHAC conference tournament on Thursday at Indiana Tech's Schaefer Center.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 7:42 pm

Tech routed in WHAC opener

Greg Jones | The Journal Gazette

Four straight losses – including a 30-point home loss in a WHAC tournament opener – have put Indiana Tech's NAIA Division II national tournament hopes on life support. 

The third-seeded Warriors' latest, and more than likely last, loss was an 87-57 setback to No. 6 Aquinas on Thursday at the Schaefer Center. 

While Indiana Tech (20-11) finished third in the regular season in the always tough WHAC, a second straight bid to the national tourney appears unlikely after the late-season struggles. 

Even third-year Warrior coach John Peckinpaugh was talking after the lopsided loss to the Saints (18-13) like the season is a wrap. 

"I don't know if it's only playing seven guys all year, but our guys have ran out of gas here this last month," Peckinpaugh said. "I am not sure, but we just didn't have much left  in the tank in February.

"This is a very bitter taste. We were right there on the verge of getting a really good seed in the national tournament. I will probably think about it until October next year; I will think about what happened in February. Hopefully as a program we will learn from this, and we will be back."

Indiana Tech was ranked No. 22 two weeks ago in the NAIA DII poll but dropped to receiving votes in the latest poll, with yet another drop expected. So the 32-team NAIA tourney field looks to be filled next week without the Warriors.

"The last four games, we were getting after it still and keeping faith but things just didn't go our way," said senior Miles Robinson, who led Indiana Tech with 23 points. 

The last four games have been about not being able to stop the opposition, allowing 85, 100, 78 and 87 points. On Thursday, the offense was also to blame for the defeat. Indiana Tech made 21 of 59 (36 percent) from the field, including 7 of 26 (27 percent) on 3-pointers. 

Tech trailed 34-26 at halftime and was outscored 53-31 in the second half.

"In the second half ... it got away from us," Robinson said. "It was a great effort for 40 minutes, but they just got too much of a lead on us."

The defensive deficiencies crept back into play for Tech in the second half trying to contain the Saints' Jake Bullock.

After holding the Aquinas senior to two points in the first half, Tech watched as Bullock got hot in the second half with 30 points for a game-high 32 points. He was 1 of 6 from the field in the first half and 10 of 14 in the second half.

"That's where our legs got affected," Peckinpaugh said. "In the first half, we did a good job on him, but he is a heckuva player."

Despite the late struggles, Tech still finished with back-to-back 20-win seasons (23-10 last year) and two third-place conference finishes in a row. 

"I can't be more proud of this senior class and what they have done for this program and have they have done for me," Peckinpaugh said, almost conceding the end of the season. "I learned a lot from each one of them."

gjones@jg.net